Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Turn of the 20th Century > Ein Heldenleben. Op. 40. - Richard Strauss
Ein Heldenleben. Op. 40.
"Ein Heldenleben" ("A Hero Life") was first performed at Frankfurt, March 3, 1899. It tells the story of a hero, his struggles with mankind, with love, with the enemy on the battlefield, his development of high thought, his intellectual and peaceful achievements, and at last his departure from the world.
There is no introduction. The opening theme, horn and strings, describes the characteristics of the hero, and other motives referring to attributes of his nature also appear and are worked up to an impressive climax. The contests with his fellow men are depicted in a genuine illustration of philosophy and ethics in music. The love music is charming throughout and closes with a duet in violin and oboe. The fourth section of the work describes the clash and fury of battle, which concludes with a splendid song of victory whose pealing harmony is fairly majestic. Then follows the hero's peace conquests in which the composer has introduced themes from nearly all his tone poems, his opera "Guntram," and some of his songs. The last section relates to the hero's passage from this world, preluded with reminiscences and closing with a mighty outburst in the whole orchestra -- fit tribute to the passing of a hero. The work is grand in its conception and treatment, and in some passages rises to inspiration.